While much of Tuesday centered on announcements, Wednesday was truly filled with ideas. From an early breakfast focused on diversity to the amazing guest keynotes, everything was thought-provoking and on point.
“I did what every former NFL player does – I went to work for NASA.”
How does someone become an NFL player? How does someone become an astronaut? How about both? For someone who has done both, Leland Melvin had a great down-to-earth story. (Yeah, I went there.) And here’s an answer: “Anything is possible if you have the grit, the resilience, and the mindset to do it.”
I have to be honest, it was hard to take notes during his presentation. He’s a very engaging speaker with a lot to share. He shared about his childhood, careers, and now his involvement in getting young people involved in science and technology. Today, much of his focus is on teaching and mentoring.
Scroll down to the video to learn more about Leland (and eating candy in space). If you have kids or want to help mentor young people, I definitely suggest you check out the STEAM section of Leland’s website.
“As an industry, we don’t always focus enough on equity and making sure everyone has a place.”
I think James Governor would be the first to admit that Leland is a tough act to follow. In fact, he did admit just that on stage. But, as co-founder of the RedMonk analyst firm, he has no shortage of great information to share. He often talks about how software is “eating the world” and re-making industries. Today, he added an important correlation for the Pure//Accelerate audience: “Storage is eating the world. You can’t do anything with software if you don’t have the data.”
“There are no boundaries between having the idea and executing the idea,” he says. Organizationally, we’re all under pressure to do better. And we have opportunities to do better – by learning, expanding skills, and making things easier for teams to work. He touched upon Kubernetes, Postgres, specialization, and how people can leverage their existing skills while evolving.
“In closing, we are not all Leland Melvin, we are not all unicorns, we are not all full-stack developers,” Governor said. “But can we create experiences that are better?” I’m pretty sure the answer is yes.
Before everyone dove into the keynotes, many of us started our day with an inspiring breakfast discussion that provided great perspective on ways to make the IT industry more inclusive. Tamara Hudgins, executive director of Girlstart, joined Pure’s CHRO Johanna Jackman and CIO Cathy Southwick for a panel discussion.
A major theme of the conversation was about how diversity supports innovation by bringing together unique viewpoints. “Like breeds like. If we don’t open up the world more, we’re going to get stagnant,” noted Jackman.
Southwick explained how she and other CIOs in the bay area approach diversity: “We’re focused on bringing diverse knowledge to address the technical problems as well as how we work in our companies.”
One of the attendees asked about how to help build diversity from the hiring process, especially from a male ally perspective. “Men have just as much say in how everything goes,” explained Southwick. “Take a chance on someone who doesn’t have 100% of the checkboxes.” She made an interesting point about how differently men and women represent themselves. You may have two people with the same skills, but women tend to be more conservative in self-evaluation and say they have seven of the ten skills outlined for the role. Meanwhile, men tend to say they have all ten skills. So when hiring, take a chance on someone who doesn’t necessarily “check all the boxes.”
There are huge opportunities to build a stronger foundation for diversity in the future workforce, regardless of industry. Based here in Austin, Girlstart’s mission is to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative STEM education programs. The organization itself focuses on having a team that represents the girls that it serves, so that the girls see them as authentic role models who understand them.
“Telling your daughter she can be anything isn’t as strong as telling them that they can be something—like an engineer,” said Hudgins. “Give girls a roadmap and encourage them to have a voice in goal setting about what they want to do.”
When mentoring young people, “asking not telling might be harder, but it’s a good step,” she says. “Inquiry always leads to better ideas.”
The panel closed the session with action items for the audience.
“I’ve never gotten a high five for doing a backup, but I sure have been yelled at for not doing a restore.”
Juan Orlandini, Insight Cloud + Data Center Transformation
“If you open the door for someone, they will come in. If you close it, you close it for everyone.”
Johanna Jackman, Pure
“Inquiry always leads to better ideas.”
Tamara Hudgins, Girlstart